Maria Alvarez thought men were the opposition. Growing up, she saw her mother struggle to raise her kids alone; in college, she and her friends staged demonstrations against male oppression; and she has friends who belong to a group called Lesbians Against Boys Invading Anything. So what’s a feminist lesbian to do when she falls in love with one of THEM? That is the question Cristina Garcia’s main character confronts in Garcia’s play “Lesbians and the Men Who Love Them* A Coming In Story,” which received a dramatic reading on June 2 at the City of Takoma Park Auditorium.
In the comedy, set in the 1980s and ‘90s, Maria is living the ultimate feminist-lesbian existence — she owns a women’s bookstore and dates beautiful, interesting women. But things change when she runs into an acquaintance from college, Joe Perez, and they bond over the strength they saw in the women in their lives. As a possible late-in-life heterosexual, she finds herself facing pressure, not only from society to behave a certain way, but by those closest to her—her roommate and warrior sister Sandina who has recently lost a girlfriend to a man; her mother, Mrs. Alvarez, who doesn’t understand her lifestyle; and her best friend Frank, who, as he faces his own mortality, tries to convince Maria that life is too short to live for other people.
Garcia, a Takoma Park resident, says one of the messages she wants the audience to receive is to “Live your life in the way you need to live it. Don’t waste your time trying to live up to other people’s expectations.”
A child of immigrants, Garcia, who is “Panalombian” as she terms it (Panamanian mother, Colombian father) was raised in Queens, N.Y. She says the play, which started out as a novel, is somewhat autobiographical, but she moved past her apprehensions about writing the piece. “I’m 51 years old, so I feel like if I hesitate now I won’t be able to fully live my life in the way that God intended me to live it.” She says one difference from her life and Maria’s is that her mother, unlike Mrs. Alvarez, “never once tried to tell me how to live my life. And, for that I’m eternally grateful.”
Although the play is a comedy, one plotline focuses on a darker aspect of the time: one of Maria’s friends dies, a casualty of the first wave of losses from AIDS. Garcia said part of the inspiration of the play was to stress, as she writes in an email interview: “The AIDS crisis is not over!”
Garcia, who has taken classes at the DC Improv, says comedy is a great way to reach the audience. “I think if you can get people to laugh it draws them in, they get invested, and then you do your work.”
Featured photo: Cristina Garcia with her husband, Felix Perez. Photo by Julie Wiatt